One of the worst winters on record for weather has taken its toll on shore and boat angling, not only venues made unfishable but piers damaged and closed, charter hours lost, competitions cancelled and a general feeling of when will it end? Well so much doom and gloom, but it has its upside and that is that the commercial nets have also been hit hard and a few extra small fish may have survived the winter this year and that may improve the fishing in the spring…
I have taken some time off to sort some of my fishing equipment and generally plan ahead – the Spring IS just around the corner and although those last few weeks can drag, it will get here. OK so I have more terminal rigs that Gerry’s of Morecambe, all my reels are loaded with new line and my tackle box is pristine. All I need is to get out on the beach for a few casts, but that’s just not going to happen until the sea flattens off and clears. First up is a plaice trip but as I said, red spots don’t like coloured, rough or silty water – Chesil Beach at Cogden is a favourite venue to head for, but only when that sea settles! In the meantime the tackle box retains my attention and one of the many jobs I keep promising to do but never get around to be replacing grip wires in my lead collection. Normally when a wire or a bead on a lead goes, I dump it in the throw away bucket for fishing the Irish rocks, or Samphire Hoe. It’s essential when fishing rough ground to have plenty of spare leads and to not worry about losing them. But the throw away bucket is overloaded so its wire cutters, pliers, beads and wire time. The tasks brings about several options, for starters you can change the shape colour of the breakout beads, I hate blue and yellow and prefer red and so replace this missing etc with round red beads, make sure you use decent strong plastic beads because some smash just looking at the beach. You can also change the grip wire length, bend them differently or simply straighten out and upgrade the lead in general. Whatever, the result is a box of new functional leads.
Another worthwhile spring clean job, is your sea fishing rods, because if you look closely you may have a cracked ring. After the countless times my rod has been pulled off the rest this winter I will be surprised if I haven’t got a ring that need replacing. The beauty of Fuji’s, Seymo and the other top makes is that they take lots of shit, but even the best cannot survive many more than one a gale driven clatters on concrete, rocks or beach stones and can be damaged and it pays to look.
First wash the rod free of sand, weed and all the other crud it has collected with use and give the rings and the reel seat the once over with a tooth brush. This will remove most of the unwanted and reveal the ring back at its best. Reel seats really benefit from a good scrubbing and you will find them less likely to jam afterwards. Examine the rings closely under a good light, the smallest crack can skim whisks of mono almost unnoticed. Of course losing a ring is a disaster on a beachcaster – it’s like scratching the door on a new motor UUURRGHH!!! For me it’s the menders and I mean specialist rod repairs not DIY. Sometimes an on the beach a temporary repair may be required and that’s fairly simple. I cut one leg of the rig whipping off. Wriggle the other ring foot free and remove the ring. Insert a new ring in the whipping and then tape up on the other side – good as new, for some!
One economic way to re-invent a tired beachcaster is to replace the shrink wrap handle. Most tackle dealers nowadays offer a range of different types, colours, materials of shrink wrap. You can buy it to the length required and simply shrink it on. Don’t be tempted to do it over the old handle though, remove this and thoroughly wash and dry the rod section before putting on the new shrink wrap. To close down the shrink wrap tightly you can use a hair drier, whilst boiling water from a kettle spout is more dangerous, it does a better job!
Best of all the rod refurbishments are those offered by lots of the major firms – Send your rod back to them and for a fee they will replace it to its original glory, well worth the money if you are fussy about your sea fishing tackle.
Already there are rumours about plaice – the first sunny day for months and tall plaice stories have started. Now let’s get one thing clear before we start talking about plaice. They are frail, thin and pasty when they first arrive inshore in March after the vigour’s of spawning and not worth eating or retaining so please unhook carefully and return. In a matter of months they will be returned to their red spotted plumpness and then will be prized for the table.
Time now to make up a few rigs with the usual plaice bling, beads and glitter, my tendency is to make the bait stop on my clipped rigs the bling and there are lots of options ranging from pop up bead, plastic beads, luminous beads, sequins, glass beads, vanes, luminous tubing etc. Don’t skimp either plaice often respond the flashiest hook bait and the rule is anything goes!
A recent letter in Sea Angler magazine criticised me for keeping (and grinning) with a catch of small dabs and whiting (4 dabs and seven whiting) Now excuse me, but I eat a lot of fish and the number I retained that day was a small percentage of that caught and returned – You see there is not much else in the sea around the UK coast in winter and I enjoy a few dab and whiting fillets.